An interesting phenomenon was expressed Wednesday on a local website of a small and solitary Muslim community newspaper here in the Valley. Marwan Ahmad, its publisher, chose to take issue on the web with my “Plugged In” commentary way back from March 1, 2004 on the laughable recent Saudi ‘slip-up’ concerning their visa requirements. Mr. Ahmad exploited his discussion to not only discuss his soft-pedaled defense of the Saudi tribal monarchal government but also to personally indict me as somehow always being “negative about the Muslim community.” It is an interesting peek into the current state of mind between Muslim-Muslim interaction right here in the Valley. Progressive moderate American Muslims are running up against this very internal struggle in any attempt to constructively engage certain spokespeople within our own Muslim community. Herein from Mr. Ahmad you will see a diversion. Rather than simply address the issue of Saudi pseudo-reform versus real reform, he chooses to address his fabricated spin of my supposed “bias” and my so-called negativism. By personalizing the discussion he deflects the readers away from the politics of reform in Saudi Arabia and the greater Muslim community, which he perversely thinks are somehow benefited by discussing platitudes of positive and false change. I, for one, believe the greater the wall of intellectual separation between the Islam I know and practice and the Muslims of the Saudi Arabian government, the better served are the Muslims of the Valley and America. Demonstrating that a vocal group and growing movement of activist American Muslims believes that this so-called “Islamic” state is far from Islamic in its practices may be the best thing for the image of Muslims in America. Save our holiest mosque, our Hajj, and our faith’s blessed founding history which took place on the Arabian peninsula, I cannot find any reason as a Muslim that criticism, no matter how frequent, of the Saudi Arabian state and its oppressive hypocrisy would reflect poorly upon American Muslims. With the central Islamic significance of the Arabian peninsula I would say we have even a greater obligation to facilitate a genuine and expeditious reform in Saudi Arabia. Islam teaches Muslims to work first and foremost toward their own self-improvement, renewal, and adherence to principles of faith before ever weighing in on non-Muslim policies. Yet, Mr. Ahmad dismisses this and sets aside the fact that hundreds of thousands of Muslim inhabitants have suffered and died at the hands of Muslim despots still in power today while his paper offers them no effective criticism or convincing calls for democracy. Mr. Ahmad would have me forget Saudi, Syrian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Libyan, Iranian, Sudanese and former Iraqi oppression to name a few and prove my supposed objectivity by whitewashing the Saudis and focusing on non-Muslims. As an introspective Muslim what other ‘territorial’ conflicts could ever be more proportionally important than the conflict in Muslim nation-states which are home to more than 1 billion Muslims who continue to live in oppression as dictators parasitically foster fundamentalist radicals while the moderates become the spoils or escape to lands of freedom like America? It is basic political common sense that nothing is more negative to the domestic and international credibility of Muslims than the existence of nations of Muslims and their elected leaders who oppress, murder, enslave, and despise their community. Until papers like Mr. Ahmad’s here in the Valley repeatedly cry for and relentlessly demand reform in so-called Muslim lands, calls against the oppression of Muslims by non-Muslims will be viewed as vacuous. American Muslims have a duty to repeatedly deconstruct the legitimacy of the Islamic religious authority of nations which claims to be Muslim and perverse the faith. As the war on terror steps up and Americans fear another incident, it becomes even more essential to demonstrate and lead an unequivocal separation between Islamo-fascism and American Muslim thought. Mr. Ahmad can choose to vilify me as negative. He can choose to blame the west for Muslim nation ills as he writes columns adorned with the Saudi flag rather than an American flag. Or he can facilitate a forward movement to stand effectively for reform in Saudi Arabia. A significant part of the terrorist threat upon our nation is a result of decades of Saudi facilitation of Islamist hate and appeasement of fanaticism and terrorism. The Saudis cowardly shipped Bin Laden to Afghanistan as he declared war on America. I can find nothing positive in the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals. Those Muslims and non-Muslims still in jail in Saudi prisons or those who have died fighting for freedom from Saudi oppression demand a genuine reform before acknowledging change. The treatment of women in Saudi alone is an abomination to every self-respecting Muslim in the world. Until the Saud family starts down the road of handing back the land and oil rightfully owned by the Saudi people back to them with Islamic property rights and justice, I cannot applaud their progress. Finding the positive in their embarrassing removal of an un-Islamic offensive visa restriction so that whitewashing propagandists can pretend all is better now is insulting. My comments are in no way negative toward the religion of Islam or its followers but rather toward Muslim oppressors, pure and simple. These are words of love of my faith and my co-religionists who seek the same freedom, equality, liberty, and justice as expressed for all citizens in the U.S. Constitution and revealed to Muslims in the Koran. It is far easier for Mr. Ahmad to conjure up images of my negativity and undermine my effectiveness within the Muslim community than to speak toward the issue of real reform. It is far easier to try and marginalize my discussion rather than applaud my pro-Islamic liberty pro-Muslim freedom stances which in fact if he would open his eyes provide Muslims with far more credibility than his platitudes ever will. I will not hold my breath waiting for the column by Mr. Ahmad on his website or in his paper decrying Al Qaeda and their ilk and the cancer they are within the international Muslim community and his plan for their extermination. He would rather remain a bystander in the war on terror despite its impact upon the Muslim community. I have yet to read a column from him about his own sense of personal responsibility as a vocal Muslim in speaking out for the eradication of terrorist networks and their leadership. How about a column on Saddam’s or Assad’s Baath Republics of fear? A self described Muslim Voice, should care about freedom and liberty first rather than appeasing and defending dictatorships which oppress Muslims. A self described Muslim Voice should acknowledge and applaud the courage of a few lone Valley Muslim voices of freedom here and abroad rather than indicting them for bias. This involves internal reflection, acknowledgement, and an acceptance of self-responsibility. Such is the challenge. For in a binary world, the distasteful alternative to hating others is to hate oneself. But, then again, at its core Islam teaches us to hate neither and to love God and his creations. The Islamic faith demands this internal reflection first before all else. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.